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tv   Dateline NBC  NBC  February 19, 2016 9:00pm-10:00pm CST

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unimaginable. >> welcome to haley's motel. >> she was a free spirit in paradise. >> it had always been her lifelong dream to have her own resort. >> then, like footprints in the sand, she disappeared. >> just strange. >> something's not right. >> some said the motel owner had simply checked out and left town. >> they saw her in line to get on to an airplane. >> but her prized car turned up with an ex-con behind the wheel. >> we thought, oh, my god. it was him. he killed her. >> was it that simple? her personal life was very complicated. a younger boyfriend. >> the man was very charismatic, drop-dead gorgeous. >> and an estranged husband. >> he had caught them having sex in room 11. >> but the case really started to sizzle when someone torched the motel. >> somebody was trying to destroy some evidence or something? >> we just didn't know. >> this is a murder mystery of epic proportions. >> both of us were obsessed with
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>> can this get any more bizarre? >> i'm lester holt, and this is "dateline." here's keith morrison with "a place on the sand." reporter: there is a little island, its own bit of fantasy, off the gulf coast of florida. it's kind of a little paradise here. >> it is paradise. and it just gets better and better, we think. >> reporter: anna maria island, where high rise condos are banned, is seven miles of unspoiled white sand, unspoiled houses, unspoiled people, too, most of them. >> when you come across the bridge, it's a whole different life. i mean, yeah, you just come across the bridge and it's like ah. >> it is. >> reporter: and here is where she found her little paradise, too.
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for it. sabine musil-buehler. and whether they called her sabina, or as some did, sabine, they all knew her here on the island. larger than life person. >> absolutely. and the minute you met her, you just were drawn to her. i mean, she was just one of those people that you wanted to get to know better. >> reporter: and even now, looking back on what happened to sabine on the awful mystery. it just doesn't seem possible, not here. >> i mean, nothing happens on this island. >> no, i mean, this is a sleepy little town. >> it's sweet town. we don't have things like that happen here. >> reporter: no, and certainly not to her. sabine made good things happen here, crazy things, happy things. here at the '50s motel she bought and reimagined along with tom buehler, the man she married within two weeks of meeting, her partner at haley's motel. longtime friends nancy ambrose and suzi fox. >> it had always been her
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resort. and haley's came on the market. and at the time it was pretty run down. and we were like, oh, now that's you've got your hands full here. but -- >> she needed tom. >> we knew that tom could do it. i mean, if anybody could do it, the two of them could turn this around. >> reporter: oh, and they did. tom did the fixing, sabine had the ideas. they invited the whole town to their quirky events, their dress-up parties. >> hello, welcome to haley's motel. please join me for a tour. >> reporter: this is her with jacamo, her ever-present parrot. sabine was the star of her own promotional videos for the hotel. >> well, i hope you like our rooms so far, but with all our activities we offer you you won't spend too much time in there. >> reporter: neighbor barbara hines. >> sabine never saw something that had a broken wing that she didn't try to fix.
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rescuer. people, cats, dogs, turtles. when suzi fox took over the anna maria turtle watch -- nesting turtles are a very big deal here -- she asked for help. >> tom and sabine were i think my fourth volunteers. and there's nine sections on this island one mile long. and they said they'd take as many as i needed to give them. >> i watched her with a huge leatherback in the water. >> reporter: bonner joy owns the local newspaper "the islander." >> unfortunately, the leatherback was missing a flipper. and he swam in circles. so he kept coming back to the beach. and sabine jumped in the water without a second thought. and she was up to here, talking to the turtle's face, like she could tell this 400-pound turtle to turn around, you know or will him to. >> reporter: so you get the idea. >> she was just amazing. i mean, she just was one of those people that cared about everybody. >> reporter: like nancy ambrose,
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battling cancer and nobody would give her a job because of her demanding treatment schedule. until the day she met sabine. >> you know, i explained what my situation was. she's like, great. that's fine. come on, come on to work. and i was like, really? and i was -- that was one of the happiest days of my life because here she was giving me a chance. >> reporter: so sabine had passions. animals, her motel, her white pontiac convertible, and in 2008, a new passion -- campaigning for barack obama. an uphill battle on this predominantly republican island. so on election night, sabine was certainly up for a party. she'd arranged to meet nancy, in fact, in what they hoped would turn into a victory celebration. >> she was so into the election. she was so excited. she wanted obama to win. >> reporter: strange then that when nancy arrived she couldn't find sabine. >> and i thought she had already left because i got there late.
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tom had been there earlier, too, but without her. still, nancy didn't worry. not then anyway. >> it wasn't until a couple days later that i realized she was missing. >> reporter: how was it possible? the woman who loved to celebrate didn't. the woman who loved to talk called no one. the woman who loved her motel suddenly wasn't there. sabine was gone. when we come back, the first troubling clue, her car with someone else at the wheel. >> flags started going off. >> who was this mystery driver? >> she would have driven through a very rough area, and it just came to my mind that maybe she
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the air was somehow different on tiny anna maria island that november of 2008. not just because obama won the election, but because sabine musil-buehler, the one and only, was not around to celebrate. not with her friends. not with her pets. not at her motel. >> she would never, ever leave her animals. she would never, ever not go to haley's to work. i mean, that was her baby. >> reporter: then, two days later, 2:30 in the morning, a seedy neighborhood across the bridge on the mainland. a patrolman pulled over a white
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burned-out taillight. as the cop approached the car, the driver ran. there was a wild chase, but they caught him. his name was robert corona. and he had a story, said detectives jeffrey bliss and john kenney of the manatee county sheriff's office. >> mr. corona's original story is, i was doing crack cocaine >> and it wasn't reported stolen. >> reporter: did he say he knew who the owner was? >> yes, and had permission to have the car. >> reporter: but when detectives checked the registration, they learned the convertible belonged to sabine. and corona had a record. >> he's a known street criminal. i mean, he has a lengthy arrest history. >> reporter: and they learned from sabine's friends that there had to be something very wrong with a story that had her doing drugs and drinking with a felon in a smoky bar in a seedy part of town. >> she would never be buying drugs. i mean, she would not even allow people to smoke around her.
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>> reporter: really? >> i mean, not even in the rooms, but on the property. i mean, she was -- >> reporter: she was kind of a health fanatic. >he had a private -- a personal trainer. i mean, she was very into health. >> reporter: so they arrested corona, installed him in the county jail and in the morning drove over to haley's motel to talk to sabine's husband tom. and? tom said he hadn't seen sabine in a couple of days. he hadn't filed a missing persons report but did after police came around. what was he like? what was your impression of the guy? >> he was concerned for her well-being. she wasn't answering her phone. he couldn't find her. >> reporter: and something else. according to tom, sabine never let anyone drive her car. not even him. now there was a stolen car, a missing woman and a known criminal. not adding up to a good combination for sabine. >> flags started going off.
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involved as a missing persons case. >> reporter: but then it got wors when detectives went over the car, they found blood drops in the back seat. a patch of the rear seat had been cut out. so they sprayed luminol around, found more blood traces on the rear seat. now, sabine's friends, like chris tollette, were horrified. >> so then we thought, oh, my god, it was him. he killed her. he must have killed her. >> reporter: so now it was a homicide investigation. detective jeff bliss decided to pay a visit to corona in jail. on the table and slid it across, and we said we're homicide detectives. this isn't about an auto theft. we need to know the truth and we need to know now. and he's like, hey, i had nothing to do with any murders. and then he changed his story. >> reporter: corona's new story? he never met anybody named sabine. he just found her car parked behind a place called the gator lounge, a not exactly upscale
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claimed it was just a crime of opportunity. >> you didn't see anybody, though, did you? >> i didn't see nobody inside the car or around the car. so that's why i decided to take the car. >> okay. >> you know? so i go inside, then i see the keys. so i'm like oh [ bleep ]. you know what i mean? >> and joy ride, you know? >> so the vehicle was left, like, somebody wanted it stolen. so he just took the liberty of stealing that car. >> reporter: was the second story any more true than the first? the local paper jumped on all this, of course. and bonner joy heard a lot of stories. >> there were a number of people who speculated that sabine might have gone to town to go to an obama celebration that was being held downtown. the area that she would've driven through to go to that party is a very rough area and that just came to my mind that maybe she'd been carjacked. >> reporter: certainly, something very bad must have happened. something maybe that happened in her car. so was corona their killer?
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truth that he stole her car outside that bar? but if that was true, how did it get there? and where was sabine? coming up -- could it be sabine had plans no one knew about? had this free spirit simply skipped town? >> there were two women who were at the sarasota airport. and they were sure that they saw her up ahead in line, you know, to get on to an airplane. doctors have been prescribing humira for more than ten years. humira works for many adults. it targets and helps to block a specific source of inflammation that contributes to ra symptoms. humira can lower your ability to fight infections,
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it was a disturbing time on anna maria island. what happened to sabine? when they found her car there
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kept changing his story. so the logical conclusion was dark indeed. still, she could have just gone back to germany to see her family or something, right? >> right, and there was extensive leads and investigation to determine that. >> reporter: in fact, apparently, sabine had been seen alive and well at the local airport. her friend chris tollette heard the story. >> there were two women who were at the sarasota airport, and they were sure that they saw her up ahead in line, you know, to get on to an airplane. >> reporter: but when detectives checked out the tip? >> her passport wasn't used. that checking surveillance cameras at sarasota bradenton airport, tampa airport to make sure that she did not leave the country or fly out. >> reporter: a couple of weeks went by that way. lots of tips. no verifiable sightings. and then finally they got the
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car. >> we were able to get her toothbrush and some other personal items for a dna comparison. >> reporter: yeah. >> and we were able to match that up that that was, nkt, her blood. >> reporter: her husband tom told a local news reporter he was prepared for the worst from that first morning when he was told about her car. >> the second i knew when the police told me that they found her car without her in it and with the keys in the car, i knew sabine was no longer with us. i knew something had happened to her immediately. >> reporter: so, looked like this guy corona might be on the hook for murder. but beyond the blood? well, evidence didn't exactly jump out at them. but who else? had sabine made an enemy? when detectives started looking at her life, they had to cast a wide net for people she associated with. after all, sabine was like a magnet. everybody wanted to go to her lavish parties.
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get on her party list. >> exactly, exactly. >> reporter: she could even get a little racy for sleepy little anna maria island. >> one of the more unusual things, she hired some people that she knew from germany who came here to do nude body painting. and that, that blew up. that nude body painting on anna marie island? you can't do that here. >> reporter: but sabine did what had to be done. it can be a tough business running and promoting a little old motel. debts are fat, margins thin. and with the economy began to tank in 2008, what once was sunny and light was gray with worry. sabine and tom were in trouble. neighbor barbara hines -- >> the real estate market had folded. i know from sabine, not from tom, that they were highly, highly, highly leveraged. >> please call me for your reservation. >> reporter: and while sabine used her marketing skills to try to keep the motel afloat, she
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their marriage. after more than a decade as husband and wife, they were that in name only. but what they did not do was divorce or divide up the business. >> they were always still good friends, very good friends. i mean they worked well together. >> reporter: romance part, the marriage part seemed to what? >> the romance part kind of -- >> maybe romance changed. >> reporter: it certainly did. as the detectives couldn't help but discover, tom and sabine had taken up with other people, both of them. he with a woman he'd known quite a while. she with a local artist who once worked at the motel as a handyman. and then there was the matter of the life insurance. how much did he take out on sabine's life, the cops asked. $100,000 said tom. despite what was apparently an amicable breakup, people on anna
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wonder about tom. more than a few, said sabine's friend caryn hodge. >> a lot of people whispering and suspecting him in a way just because they didn't know. >> reporter: photographer jack elka did promotional stills for the motel and became good friends with tom and sabine. >> there was no evidence found. there was no nothing. so everything was speculative. who did it? it's a who did it. this is a murder mystery of epic proportions. >> reporter: so it was. then 12 days after sabine vanished from the face of the earth somebody set fire to haley's motel. >> i'm sure my mouth was hanging open just going can this get any more bizarre? >> reporter: what was this all about? >> we just didn't know. >> reporter: dead or alive, where was sabine? coming up --
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policy wasn't the whole story. >> it came up later it was $300,000. >> money, a motive or just maybe jealousy? >> he had caught them having sex in room 11 at haley's motel. softens your carpet with every use. it's resolve, so you know it cleans and freshens. but it also softens. resolve. a carpet that welcomes you. and to clean pet messes, try resolve pet expert. hello my love! the flame is out... the flame is out, tomorrow my attitude... your mother... antonio. antonio. que? the stove. it's not working. campbell's microwaveable soups.
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the torching of haley's motel here in to be as intractable a mystery as the disappearance of sabine. what they did know was it was no accident. this was arson. and it started in a building beside the main hotel structure, a building that once served as tom and sabine's living quarters. nobody was hurt, happily. but there were questions. was it personal? an attempt to destroy evidence or what? around town some people wondered if tom had something to do with it. others dismissed that as just photographer jack elka covered the fire for the islander
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>> that's when the mystery really started to, wow, another element of this puzzle that -- >> reporter: yeah. why would somebody do that? >> kind of bizarre. >> reporter: surely, it had to have something to do with whatever happened to sabine. why would that place burn down? somebody was trying to destroy some evidence or something? >> it was a theory. we weren't sure if something happened there and then she was buried somewhere. we just didn't know. >> reporter: months went by without a decent lead. though it was not for lack of trying to find one. especially where their instincts were telling them sabine might be buried. the beach. >> well, whenever we would have a break, we intowould come out here to this very spot. we would stand here and review the case and brainstorm the case. >> reporter: detective sergeant john kenney and his partner jeff bliss kept organizing searches on the beach. looking for any area where the
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looked disturbed. >> we took cadaver dogs, walked them up and down the beach. we used ground-penetrating radar, checked various spots on the beach just trying to find skeletal remains. >> reporter: to no avail. and in november 2009, the first anniversary of whatever it was that happened, on the beach sabine loved they had a little memorial. husband tom tossed a flower wreath into the surf. >> there was no hope. we knew. she was gone. she was no longer alive. >> reporter: but apparently the life insurance company wasn't so sure. and right around the time of that memorial service at the beach, tom went to court to take the first step to get that money. wasn't it tom who petitioned the court to declare her dead? >> yes. >> reporter: if she's declared dead, he gets a lot of insurance money. >> correct.
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>> correct. >> reporter: yes, that. funny, tom had told the detectives before he'd held a $100,000 policy on sabine. but when he filed papers to declare her dead, it turned out there was a second larger life insurance policy that he forgot to mention. >> it came up later it was $300,000. >> reporter: the revelation made the newspapers. attorneys for the insurance company argued that under florida law sabine had to be missing at least five years before she could be declared dead and any insurance money paid out. alt the hearing reporters noticed an unusual group of observers listening to the proceedings. >> the whole back row of seats was taken up by sheriff's deputies. and if they weren't interested in what tom had to say to the insurance company, why were they there? >> reporter: but tom was not successful. >> they denied a death certificate. and tom was denied the insurance. and i could see -- >> reporter: and that's a big
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certificate. there was no body. >> reporter: by then the police knew corona didn't kill sabine. a barmaid at the gator lounge was able to confirm the essentials of his story. so he was convicted of car theft, not murder. and detective kenney, who as an island cop had known sabine and tom for years, decided to have another try much closer to home. he asked tom for any detail, no matter how small, that might take the investigation beyond the conjecture and whispers of suspicion that floated on the island breeze. >> and he went into a whole background of their courtship, their marriage, and how it disintegrate disintegrated. >> reporter: how did it disintegrate? >> he told me that they just slowly, you know, like grew apart and that they stayed together because they were very good friends and they owned the business together. >> reporter: but -- and this seemed unusual -- while they stayed married, they moved in
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remember, in the year before sabine went missing, tom started dating a new woman and sabine took up with a handsome younger man who once worked at the motel. his name was bill. bill cumber. >> the man was very charismatic, drop-dead gorgeous. >> reporter: ten years younger, in fact. sabine was 49. bill was 39 and very different from tom. tom, meanwhile, was still sabine's business partner. and that's where things got a little dicey. one day tom found sabine in a room in their motel with her new lover, bill. >> he had caught them having sex in room 11 at haley's motel. but he said it wasn't a jealousy thing. it was a lack of respect that, you know, having sex with his wife in the hotel room. >> reporter: not jealous? maybe. still, the detectives knew that sort of thing could very well
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things. so tom and bill did one of them harm sabine? they interviewed bill the first time back when sabine's stolen car was found. learned that in 2008 they started dating and eventually they moved into an apartment together. sabine told her friends she'd hit the jackpot with bill. friends like joyce lathrop. >> she even had his picture in her wallet. and she was so proud that he was so handsome, and i can see where she was head over heels. >> maybe this was going to be the love of her life. they were going to have a wonderful future together. >> reporter: the last time sabine's friend photographer jack elka saw her she was with bill. jack had never met him before. >> she came over to me and gave me a big kiss and hug and, you know, how are you? and she introduced this man to me. and he shook my hand.
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how you doing, man? long time, no see. and i'm looking at this guy, thinking like i don't really know this guy. >> reporter: the question was, did anybody know bill? coming up -- >> i think that the world's missing somebody special. >> emotion from bill, and a surprise from a stranger. >> he said, you have no idea what you've just done. >> was he about to blow the case wide open? pills. and comes in a pen. victoza is proven to lower blood sugar and a1c. it's taken once a day, any time. victoza is not for weight loss, but it may help you lose some weight.
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when sabine disappeared from anna maria island on election night 2008, detectives took a good look at the two men closest to her. the estranged husband tom and the boyfriend bill cumber, with whom she was living at the time. >> typically in any missing person case, you look at the inner circle first. husband, paramour. >> reporter: bill gave detectives his story of what happened the night she disappeared. sabine left their place around 10:00 p.m., he said, intending to go to that obama victory party. and the next thing he knew, detectives were at his door telling him they'd found her car and there was blood inside. a few days after that, bill told his story again to a local tv
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>> i think it's a tragedy. i think the world's missed somebody -- somebody special. >> reporter: he told the reporter he blamed himself, in a way, because sabine left after they argued about his smoking. >> now i feel responsible for her leaving, leaving here. as far as what happened after that, i have no idea. >> reporter: the detectives were busy looking at records and discovered that bill once spent some time behind bars. that was after, and unrelated to, his stint as a handyman at the motel. and tom and sabine went to see him in prison, sent him money, wrote to him and he wrote back. >> and you know, tom, i think, was just throwing them away. but she started writing him back and trying to help him. >> reporter: as sabine and tom's romance cooled, her letters to bill heated up.
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probation in 2008, sabine was waiting for him. sabine's friends, however, did not share her enthusiasm for bill. around her. going to come, don't bring that guy. they saw something off about him? >> yes. that, you know, she did not. >> reporter: no. sabine saw a young, fit, artistic man who just needed a break. bill was something of an amateur artist, though his sketches didn't seem to amount to much. but sabine was determined to help bill jump-start his career, to get his artwork sold and maybe start up a woodworking business. >> she had set him up in a woodshop, bought all his tools. >> reporter: and around town, they certainly looked like lovebirds. still, two weeks after sabine vanished, the detectives asked bill to come in for another
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told them about the argument. >> we got in a verbal dispute and went -- she left. i mean i don't -- honestly i had no control over where she goes or what she does. >> right. but you guys were not in a physical altercation? >> no. we never had a physical altercation. >> reporter: but did they push him? did they challenge him? yes, they did. >> where did you dump her at? this woman you love so much. >> she left. i don't -- what do you mean dump her? i don't -- >> so you dumped her. >> i don't got nothing to do with what -- >> you beat her to a pulp. >> -- happened that night. no. >> you had nothing to do with what happened to her after she left? >> no. >> reporter: but, try as they might, bill cumber did not crack. so they sent him home. but kept an eye on him. what made you think that he was the guy who would have killed her? i mean, they were going out together. >> we knew that they had an argument day at least one. >> reporter: was there any other evidence that pointed toward him
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>> not until he vacated his apartment. >> reporter: without sabine to pay the rent, bill was evicted. and the detectives got per mission to get in there tut sweet. >> the first time i entered the apartment, it was a heavy, heavy scent on bleach. >> reporter: wait a minute, how long after? >> four or five weeks. >> reporter: and yet the smell of bleach was still strong at that point? >> yes. we went in and searched it. and we found additional blood evidence with dna. >> reporter: what did all of that say to you? >> something bad happened right there. >> reporter: but bill told the detectives that was innocent blood. sabine once cut herself here. and then they found bill's dna on the driver's seat of sabine's car, but he told detectives she let him drive it. >> we knew that no one, even her husband was not allowed to drive her car. >> reporter: but then they looked at bill's hand. >> he had an injury on his hand
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gotten when we were out here digging test holes. >> reporter: just from the shovel? getting it on the palm of your hands? >> yeah. just from shoveling. >> reporter: bill said he fell off his bike. and the more detectives looked at bill cumber, the worse it looked for him. the reason he did time in prison, for example? he was convicted of arson. >> he was jealous of his girlfriend, paramour. and -- >> they had a argument and he tried to burn the house down with her and the kids in it. >> reporter: it turned out the haley's motel fire was intentionally started with accelerants. bill's shoes were tested later and had traces of accelerants too, but that wasn't enough to make a case. so did they arrest bill, charge him with murdering sabine? no, they did not. a no-body case would be very tough, said the prosecutors.
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even dead. so the detectives turned up the heat. so there's always somebody knocking at the door, i want to talk to you. i want to talk to you. >> we had a legitimate safety concern for other residents, especially if he, you know, wound up getting with another female. >> reporter: and bill couldn't take it. he left anna maria island, left the county. unfortunately for him, that was a probation violation. so before long, bill was in jail while the detectives kept looking for sabine everywhere. no trace. then in 2011, three years after she disappeared, a man named ed moss was clearing brush in front of his house on the island right next to the beach. >> and underneath a log there was a kind of a small purse. >> reporter: looked stolen, said ed. so he showed it to a deputy. and he looked at me, he said,
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just done. >> reporter: it was sabine's purse. her driver's license confirmed it. >> we had this lead as far as the purse being recovered. it was only two blocks to the north where they actually live. >> reporter: so detectives kenney and bliss brought an army of police and equipment and started searching the area for her remains. but again after weeks of digging through the sand and bush, nothing. >> both of us were obsessed with this case. and you know, we know he did it. >> reporter: another thing kenney knew was that tom didn't do it. remember, some people on the island had been suspicious of tom, but privately detectives had long since cleared him. >> i could tell that he didn't do it. but we went through the steps and we alibied him and did, you know, everything that needed to be done to make sure. >> reporter: apparently, his attempt to cash out the insurance policies so quickly
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survival. >> i would never thought that tom had anything to do with this. that's why i felt so brokenhearted. >> reporter: so with tom in the clear, detectives consulted with other jurisdictions on how they handled no-body cases. and lined up all the forensic and circumstantial evidence and finally the prosecutor told them they were ready. in 2012, four years after sabine vanished, bill cumber was indicted for second degree murder, but it was not going to be an easy case. >> obviously, evidence that goes with the body, you know, cause of death, manner of death, and we didn't have that. >> reporter: and what would it take for a jury to believe handsome bill was a killer? coming up -- a final clue leads detectives back to the beach and puts a trial on hold. >> he'd been crying quite a bit.
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good morning sunset. good morning night. good morning neon, shining bright. good morning hunger. good morning stars. good morning people who just left bars. good morning gamers. good morning moon. good morning morning.
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the days slid by rather more slowly for bill cumber. back in prison on a parole violation and under indictment for murder. but he did have visitors.
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both had moved on to other cases, but they still made time to press bill to come clean. >> we traveled four or five times up to where he was in prison and tried to interview him. >> reporter: what would he say? >> say he had nothing to do with it or didn't want to talk to us. >> reporter: of course, they didn't believe that. . the detectives were sure bill had killed sabine. and they had an offer he couldn't refuse. >> we got the blessing of the state attorney to offer him a deal. >> reporter: the deal? tell detectives where to find the body in exchange for a lesser sentence. >> he makes a statement, i'll take my chances with a jury. the hair on my neck stands up because that's a very telling statement. an innocent man will say i didn't do it. >> reporter: bill will be taking his chances soon. his trial was just a month away. so detectives approached the one person who maybe could persuade bill to take the deal. >> detective bliss actually took the defense attorney into our property office and viewed all
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>> reporter: there was sabine's blood on the couch, couch ber's hands with those blisters detectives believed came from burying her. and the evidence in her car, the cut upholstery with her blood and bill's dna. >> i think they went to cumber and said, you know, we're going to have a tough time with this. >> reporter: pretty soon prosecutor art brown got a call. >> i received a feeler from mr. cumber's defense attorney he might be interested in an off, 20 years in prison if he told us the location of sabine. >> reporter: what do you know? bill bit. on october 15th, 2015, a bearded bill cumber pleaded no contest to second degree murder. then he sat down to answer questions with a tape recorder rolling. what was that interview like? >> chilling. >> reporter: according to bill, the argument about smoking was just part of it. the bad part started, he said, when sabine told him they were done.
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on with this anymore. what happened at that point? >> i lose control, and i hit her in the head with my fist. this is a disgusting situation, man. >> what's her reaction to being struck? >> she gets scared and she covers her face with her hands. >> okay. and what do you do at that point? >> i reached and grabbed her throat and started choking her. >> reporter: he choked her till she stopped moving, he said. she never fought back. did he seem remorseful? >> somewhat. i mean, he wasn't teary-eyed. he was just kind of getting it off his chest. >> i couldn't believe what i did. i stared down at her and all things -- all kinds of things were running through my mind. i couldn't believe what i had done. >> reporter: he said he took a sheet off the bed and rolled her up in it, waited about an hour, dragged her out to the car. he put her in the backseat where the upholstery. and then he drove to the beach to bury her.
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>> yes. >> reporter: on the way to bury her, he stole a shovel from haley's motel. and then after he buried her, he said, he drove to the gator lounge, left the keys in the car hoping somebody would steal it. then he took a bus back to the island and a trolley back home. >> i thought he minimized certain aspects of his involvement in the murder. >> reporter: minimized what? >> he says that it was just a split second moment of insanity. i think there was a little bit more calculation than that. >> reporter: after the interview, detective bliss put bill in his car and drove to the beach. then, in handcuffs and leg irons, he shuffled down a long path to a place on the sand where he'd often sat with sabine. this is where he brought her body. >> a spot they used to sit out all the time, right down the road from haley's motel, and that he buried her on the beach there. >> reporter: right here, where
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sunset. >> right here? which way did you put her in? >> her head was here. >> reporter: detective bliss mapped the area out with tiny yellow flags. >> how deep was the hole? >> about four feet, four or five feet. >> reporter: and then the detective gave bill an opportunity, whether he deserved it or not. >> want to take a minute? go ahead. i told him if he wanted to say a prayer, he could. and that's when he got teary-eyed and emotional, and he apologized to her. i walked him back to the car. and he just asked me to let her family know that she was a very good woman and she didn't deserve to die. and he was very sorry for what he had done. and he was very emotional and
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that was the first time in my dealings with him that i've ever seen him emotional about what he had done. >> reporter: once he left, a team of detectives and the medical examiner dug slowly, carefully. and by the end of the day they had found what was left of sabine. what was that like for you after all those years of trying to find something and failing? >> we were elated. me and my partners. it's a sense of relief. closure. >> reporter: bill cumber was returned to jail and is now serving his 20-year sentence in state prison. >> a lot of people probably he got, but you know, they're not part of the family that has to deal with it. should he have gotten life? absolutely. >> reporter: detective sergeant kenney is retired now and detective bliss is still doing homicide cases. tom buehler, who lost both a
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his good reputation, has tried to move on. he's remarried now and is still running his beloved and restored haley's motel. it's a busy place this time of year. and in place of sabine's little promotional videos, here's tom. >> if you're coming to anna maria island and if you want to see old florida, you can either drive around and look at it or you can stay here at haley's motel and experience it. >> reporter: and up and down the streets of anna maria island, sabine's friends remember. >> i'm so blessed that she was in my life even for that amount of time because she touched my life deeply. and i think it makes me really appreciate each and every day even more because it can be cut short. >> reporter: even here in this little remnant of paradise. that's all for this edition
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we'll see you tomorrow at 8:00, 7:00 central for the "dateline" saturday night mystery, then again sunday at 7:00, 6:00 central. i'm lester holt. for all of us at nbc news, good night.dow-dupont has its headquarters in delaware.. and its research and development division in iowa... find out how much the two states are paying the multi-billion dollar company to keep it that way. and the nevada democratic party is threatening to prosecute caucus goershead of tomorrow's vote... find out what the party considers voter fraud... and what the law actually says. and how would you like to drive on this back and forth to work everyday... see where the roads are in need of repair... and why the improvements will have to wait. 18:51:24--32 'im flabbergasted at their excuse for it. apparently they dont live on the gravel, they they dont have to deal with this.' dupont pioneer has already cut
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paying the company to stop the layoffs. good evening. i'm erin kiernan. and i'm dan winters. it wasn't what state leaders were after... but they're still calling it a win for iowa taxpayers. even when the dow-dupont merger is complete... the company will still have a presence in our state... 51:21 iowa was successful in all our efforts making the case to the company as to why iowa should be the location for this 'global business center' for seed and biotechnology you could call it a silver medal. state leaders had hoped dow-dupont would locate its company headquarters in johnston. instead... they selected wilmington delaware. johnston will become home to the company's research and development branch thanks to millions of dollars in state and local tax breaks.. 4:53:58 so when you look at what iowa maintained, and what it's going to be able to do in the future as far as growth, this package today was extremely


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